The Sidelined Wife(11)

By: Jennifer Peel

“I’m going to tell him you said that.” Cody wiped his mouth with his hand.

“You can also tell him that he owes me a new Bryan Adams poster and t-shirt.” That punk and my brother had taken a red permanent marker to both and wrote loser across them. Ma made them clean the garage as punishment, but I never got them replaced. Bryan Adams was my first concert and I kind of had a crush on him.

Cody cocked his head and squinted his eyes. “Who is Bryan Adams?”

That pierced my soul. Not only did that mean I was old, but why had I never introduced my son to the gift of music that Bryan Adams was?

I shook my head. “He’s some old guy that sings.”

Cody shrugged and continued shoveling food into his mouth.

“Do you like Coach Cassidy?” It was so weird to call him that.

Cody smiled with his mouth full. “Yeah. He’s way better than Coach Gainer. He even does the drills with us.”


Cody nodded. “You should see how far he can throw a football.”

“I remember going to some games where he and Peter played.” Thinking back, Reed was good. I think he was a running back. Peter was a receiver. I was already in college by the time they were in high school, but I caught a few games when I came home for the weekend from Northwestern. I could have come home more, but didn’t. I thought I was too grown-up. And once I started dating Neil, he filled my weekends. Not thinking about it.

“It’s cool he went to high school at Pomona.”

“I suppose it is. I’m glad you like him. You better get going, or you’ll be late.”

Cody looked at the time on his phone and scarfed down the remainder of his breakfast.

“Please no messing around in the car with Hershel, and text me when you get there so I know you’re safe.”

Cody rolled his eyes and stood up. “Okay.”

“I mean it. You don’t want me showing up at practice to look for you.”

He gave me a look that said, You wouldn’t dare, but he had no idea what a panicked mom was capable of. I had no problem showing up at practice to find out if he was alive.

“You don’t want to test that out.” I smiled.

“I’ll text you.” He hustled upstairs to grab his bag and hopefully brush his teeth. I wasn’t sure why I still needed to remind him to do that. I hoped that meant he wasn’t making out with girls yet. He said he wasn’t, but he was cute, and I remember being fifteen.

With Cody out the door and a million prayers sent up that he would arrive safely at practice, I decided I might want to start living again by actually getting ready. And not the take-a-shower, throw-my-hair-up ready, but the take-my-time, act-like-I’m-still-a-woman kind.

Maybe I would even look at myself. For months now, I had done my best to avoid looking in the mirror. The woman I saw in there wasn’t me. How could she be? I had done everything to foolproof my marriage, my life. I went to college and married a doctor. I volunteered at each one of Cody’s schools. I did all the wife and mother things, from laundry to making balanced meals and chasing away monsters in the middle of the night. I hosted parties for Neil’s associates. He hated that sort of thing, but knew it was good for his career. Thanks to me, he came off as socially adept, though he would have rather been poring over ancestry sites or reading encyclopedias or all those sci-fi novels he kept on his nightstand. The ones that started taking precedence over me at night.

I had done all the right things, or so I thought. I even did my best to keep up my appearance, hoping Neil would notice. He seemed to notice less and less as the years went by. I brushed it off as that’s what happens when you get older, but some of my girlfriends the same age as me made it sound like sex had never been better for them in their marriages. Avery boasted that sex in her forties was amazing. When we talked about such things, and yes, women do talk about those things—a lot—I pretended it wasn’t my brother she was sleeping with.

With all my friends having the time of their lives, it seemed, I jumped to the obvious assumption that there was something wrong with me. Then, to nail that point home, Neil altogether quit touching me. Later he said it was because he felt guilty about the affair and he was afraid he might transmit an STD to me. It was almost as if he wanted me to thank him for sparing me that. Somehow in his mind that made him heroic. Regardless, all I could think about was how undesirable I had become. Those high-priced creams and lotions hadn’t done any good. That hour earlier I woke up every day to exercise hadn’t mattered to anyone. I began to wonder if I mattered to anyone.